On the first Monday of the “Intro to Java” boot camp, as I waited for the gates to open at the All-Age School in Dunmore Town, North Eleuthera, I was introduced to Ryan Austin. Ryan was running a robotics camp for students at the local library. He had heard about my “Intro to Java” boot camp from several people in town, and had stopped by to tell me how supportive and excited he was about it. We discussed the boot camp, and I told him about the project and assessment that I was planning for the final day. He loved the idea, and said that he wanted to donate a laptop to the top-performing student (a U.S. based Bahamian donor had given him a few laptops for his camp). I’d been planning to offer doughnuts to the winner, but this would be even more motivational for the students. He also told me about his robotics camp, and asked me to stop by to talk to the students. I was delighted to spend time with his campers later that week. By supporting each other’s efforts, I saw first hand that together we could have more impact on the students in this small island community.
The first couple of days of teaching the “Intro to Java” boot camp were challenging, as I had both middle and high school students that were at different academic levels. It was clear that the concepts were easier to grasp for some than for others. I had to make sure that each student in the class fully understood the material. In order to address this disparity, I introduced a peer teaching approach in the classroom, and had the students who felt comfortable with the material teach their classmates who were progressing more slowly. I also offered a couple of hours of tutoring lessons at the end of the day for those students who needed more attention. In this way, I was able to keep everyone on track with the curriculum we needed to cover.
On the final day of camp we held our final project and assessment. The first part of the day required the students to write an interactive “Mad Libs” and guessing program. Every student successfully completed a working program. The second part of the day was a 10-page assessment covering all of the material the students had learned during the boot camp. Caleb, the student with the highest score (36/36) received the new laptop. It was incredibly gratifying to see the students all receive top scores on their tests. I gave them each a certificate for successfully completing the “Intro to Java” boot camp, and a flash drive to save their work so that they could access it and review it later.
I also asked the students to complete a feedback form. Their responses were very encouraging including: “This camp was an amazing experience that can help me throughout my career.” Another student when asked if they would like to do it again wrote: “Definitely, because of this camp I have been introduced to something that will benefit me for my career and the rest of my life”. They all enthusiastically said that they would love to do another boot camp. I am grateful to have had this opportunity to teach these students, and I loved getting to know them. Their curiosity, enthusiasm, and collective kindness made the whole program an incredible experience. Thanks again to Ms. Wells and Mr. Hepburn at the All-Age School, the CSGC, and the Workman family for supporting my work!